Maybe it was the crawling vines clinging to the stone houses, or the red berries that grow in storybook-like clusters along the roadside, that they thought I wouldn't like. Or the fallen orange leaves that brighten the slippery grey cobbled streets. Or the bread pretzels topped in chunky white salt and the hazelnut chocolate spread that are never far away. Or the plentiful, varied, fresh and clean produce. Or the warm-compared-to-Canada winters. Or all the quiet and privacy and shiny machines that do every task imaginable.
Maybe these were the things that came to their minds, when they were worried I wouldn't like it here.
They ask what I've seen so far and where I've travelled since arriving. I tell them I've seen my fiancé, and this city. They ask if I like it here, and I say "Yes, because my fiancé is here." My fiancé tells me that his is a dirty city, by European terms, and that others turn up their noses when people talk about this region of the country. And yes, I see the bridges scarred with graffiti, the industrial smoke stacks or the homeless men by the bus stop with urine-soaked trousers. But it's nothing I haven't seen before, or nothing that would stop me from living here. And somehow it doesn't cancel out the beauty of being here.
I have always been happy with simple pleasures. Here I've been happy to take walks under sunny fall skies, to buy discounted nail polish and shoes at the flea market, to make homemade lasagna and serve it on a colorful new tablecloth, to pick a bloom from along the roadside and grace a jar with it for days, to weave words together on the printed page, to notice how the trees stand majestically in rows by the river, and to watch the hillside flame with fall. To breathe in the quiet and rest, before I return to North America for a busy month of wedding planning.
And though I enjoy simple pleasures, more importantly, I remember that life is so much more than what we like, or even what we can see. What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal. When my fiancé and I speak of expectations for where we'll live after we are married, answering questions from premarital books, we both realize that we have never chosen our geographical location only for our pleasure, and we never will. We will never live by the ocean simply because we like beach walks, or nest in the mountains just because we like alpine air. We'll see which temporary circumstances make the most sense based on our understanding of our eternal circumstances. And we'll hammer in our tent pegs into this temporary soil accordingly. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I'm staying in a spotless, spacious flat owned by friends of my fiancé's. They welcomed me to a pristine spare bedroom with a flat-screen TV and bubbly water. I am to help myself to their lovely kitchen's contents. Even now, I just finished a tasty European breakfast and I'm looking out onto their spacious balcony that overlooks the hilly city in which they live. They have made me more than comfortable for the remainder of my visit.
Somehow, they were worried I wouldn't like it here. And merely in a physical sense, it is quite likeable here. But as I move to my fourth continent, I know that life is about so much more than me, or about here.
It's about Him—God.
And now, him—my almost-husband.
And there—His unseen home and kingdom.
It's fun to be in love in Europe in autumn, eating street falafels and taking long walks. Last night foreign-sounding music was blasting below the bridge and we watched a boat crease through the river, folding the sunset's reflection in the water in its wake. As afternoon became evening we were going through more premarital counselling questions, this time about finances, and were reminded that we aren't owners, we are stewards. He is over all, and through all, and in all. In Him we live and move and have our being. All this is for Him—all this moving and settling, marrying and giving in marriage, Europe-living or Asia-living. All this is His.
For now we are stewards of bread pretzels and European efficiency—a memorable place to begin our marriage, in our cozy IKEA-furnished flat looking out at a quiet red-roofed neighbourhood. It might sound exciting to others, that my fiancé is whisking me off from dusty Asia to one of the world's top move-to countries. But we won't cling too tightly, as we may anytime be asked to exchange this for rolling corn fields and down home Americana, or another honking, writhing Asian metropolis.
Any day, this all will end and we will see, face-to-face, the spiritual kingdom on the other side of this life. I wonder, based on our stewardship here, what our assignments will be in His kingdom. How did we use our engagement season to edify others? How will we employ our wedding ceremony for His purposes? Will He be lifted up in our marriage, in our Europe months or years? We are training for reigning, by our stewardship of what we have here.
If we're going to "worry" about anything,
let's worry about that.
But if we have food and clothing,
we will be content with that. — Paul
we will be content with that. — Paul
"Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.... Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you... — King David